The Obsidian Virtual Concept House aims to empower a million Black families

March 11, 2021

Celebrating Black creativity and culture, twenty-three members of Black Artists & Designers Guild (BADG) and two rising stars (a design student and a young professional) created The Obsidian Virtual Concept House—the virtual reality home of a fictional Black family in Oakland, California which opened in February 2021

Set in the near future year of 2025, the chosen location for the BADG virtual home is significant. Situated on the east side of San Francisco Bay, Oakland occupies a prominent role in US Black history, as the home of the groundbreaking community initiative the Free Breakfast for School Children Program organised by the Black Panther Party in 1968. The Concept House’s eco-conscious architecture was designed by Leyden Lewis Design Studio and Studio Cooke John. Situated on a hill, the house faces west towards San Francisco creating a commentary on the Black experience where generations of Black San Franciscans have been priced out of the city through gentrification—a wealth disparity situation that has also spread to Oakland; a once majority-Black city.

Analog Vestibule by Everick Brown Design

An evolution of the traditional showhouse where designers are assigned rooms in an IRL house, BADG instead based the house on four guiding principles: innovation, technology, sustainability and futurism aided by seven fundamentals: wellness, identity, sustenance, terra, legacy, ancestral futures, and dwelling. This innovative concept breaks free of the confines of room allocation and allows the designers to explore limitless ideas which they convey through storytelling spaces accompanied by evocative narrative titles. Addressing ‘environmental injustice’ and with an Afrocentric perspective, BADG is ‘changing the narrative on defining spaces in the home’, says Everick Brown a BADG creator, ‘we want to invite new conversations about the space of the home as a place of thriving for Black families’.

The Barka Dai An Abundance of Welcome by Cheryl Umbles Interior Design

The home is virtual, but objects in the home, including rugs, are real. The Barka Dai ‘An Abundance of Welcome’ by Cheryl Umbles Interior Design features Reclining Figure, Faye Toogood’s asymmetrically shaped abstract rug inspired by her textile collages. Hand-knotted and hand-stitched, the wool rug is from Toogood’s Doodles Collection for Italian luxury rug company cc-tapis. Umbles chose the rug ‘to soften the strong angular lines of the defined space… I love that its shape let me break the rules about how we often think furniture should float over a rug in a space’.

Moon House by Me and General Design

Elsewhere in the house are rugs from product sponsor Stark Carpet, Sarah Sherman Samuel, Atelier Février, and Rug Art by Sigal Sasson. Designer Mitchell Black chose Stark’s silk hand-loomed Halia rug in Gunmetal for his Escape room, while The Shaman’s Chamber by McLean & Tircuit features Stark’s hand-knotted wool and silk Pizzazz rug in a Chocolate colourway that highlights the design’s graphic Ikat inspired, bark-like pattern. Moon House by Me and General Design features Sarah Sherman Samuel’s handwoven Moroccan flatweave rug, while the Analog Vestibule by Everick Brown Design—a transformative space to ‘think, play, gather’—features three rugs from New York-based Rug Art hand-knotted in Tibet from wool and silk. The bold designs of the three rugs—MemphisSilhouette, and Expression—enhance the designer’s deliberately analogue respite from digital overload.

Moon House by Me and General Design

Djembe Room by Revamp Interior Design features the Elisse rug from the Invisible Collection by Atelier Février. Customised in a black and white colourway by Danielle Fennoy, Founder of New York-based Revamp, the hand-knotted wool and silk rug’s free form non-rectilinear shape features a repeating pattern of wedge shapes. These cuneiform-like shapes—a logo-syllabic script used to write several ancient Near East languages—speak to the importance, geographic breadth, and longevity of the Black experience.

Djembe Room by Revamp Interior Design

‘Rugs are essential in my design practice’ says Fennoy. ‘I wanted an organic-shaped rug that unified the various seating groups in the Djembe Space, but also told some of our story. Black and white is very common in African history and culture. Black usually represents maturity, spirituality, wisdom and mourning. White is usually about knowledge, celebration and cleansing. When the two are combined it’s a reminder to learn from our past and to continue to seek the truth.’

Obsidian Virtual Concept House is a partnership between BADG and Hearst Magazine Luxury & Design Collection, ELLE Decor, House Beautiful, Town & Country, Veranda.

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